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Comic Book / Seconds

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Seconds is a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley and published by Random House. It was released on July 15, 2014.

The story centers around the heroine Katie, a talented chef, who runs the successful titular restaurant. Life is generally good for her, as she has grand ambitions of expanding her business to a second restaurant. However, things end up going awry in a big way, starting off with business ordeals bogging down the expansion. A chance encounter with her ex-boyfriend who left her on ambiguous terms also leaves her in distress. In turn it sours up a fling she has with one of her chefs, and all of it culminates with her inadvertently causing an accident, leaving a waitress hospitalized. All she wants now is a second chance, and she gets one when a mysterious girl shows up in her bedroom, granting Katie a notebook, a red-capped mushroom and a list of instructions.

The instructions she receives are as follows:

  1. Write your mistake
  2. Ingest one mushroom
  3. Go to sleep
  4. Wake up anew

The next morning she finds that history has been revised and that the mistakes leading to the accident have been rectified. With this mysterious ability in hand, Katie continues to revise the past to work in her favor. But she soon ends up biting off more than she can chew upon the realization that she doesn't just desire a better life, but a perfect one. With that comes a slew of consequences, and she soon finds that defying the rules given to her comes at a heavy price she's not ready to pay.

In April 2022, a feature film adaptation was announced to be in development at Searchlight Pictures. Edgar Wright, who previously adapted fellow O'Malley novel Scott Pilgrim to film, is writing the screenplay and producing, while Blake Lively is set to make her feature directorial debut on the film.

No relation to the film of the same name.

Seconds provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: We all make bad decisions that we wish we could take back. But it happens and the best we can do is roll with the punches and try to learn from them so they don't happen again. Lightly parodied at the end, where after Katie explains this, an unimpressed Ray points out that a large poster featuring the Serenity Prayer (i.e., a summation of that exact aesop) has been hanging right behind him in his office the entire time. Not only has Katie had that message in her direct line-of-sight for the last three years, but she was even present when he first put it up. She immediately leaves out of embarrassment.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Hazel, in the literal sense. She appears to be unapproachable and her co-workers haven't exactly warmed up to her, but it mostly has to do with her own shyness, not aloofness.
  • Ambiguously Bi: When Katie speaks to Max after the first revision, the man he is having dinner with is crying, implying that they just broke up. Later, when Katie is talking to Hazel, the conversation leads to Katie asking her if she likes girl or boys. Hazel replies that she hasn't decided yet.
  • Anime Hair: Katie has big, spiky, circular hair that's bigger than her head. In her more chibi moments, her entire head is just a bush of hair with eyes and a mouth.
  • Animesque: Even more so than Scott Pilgrim. O'Malley specifically stated he wanted to try "70s/80s manga style like Rumiko Takahashi or Izumi Matsumoto" with "bigger hair and 'cuter' figures."
  • Art Shift: Panels have been seen jumping around from cute Super-Deformed appearances to rather realistic illustrations.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In a sense, as Katie starts using the mushrooms to make long term changes in her life. As you can imagine, she quickly finds out there's no such thing as a "perfect" life.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Lis only gives Katie the first mushroom because Hazel, the only one caring for her, burns her arms.
  • Berserk Button: In the timelines where Max and Katie are married, any insinuations that the second restaurant belongs to only Katie as opposed to the two of them instantly put Max in a crappy mood.
  • Betty and Veronica: Katie's choice between the stable and romantic Max (Betty) and the more passionate and sexual Andrew (Veronica), as well as her professionalism with these relationships, is a major plot thread that is the catalyst of the story and influences several revisions.
  • Building of Adventure: Enforced. Almost all of the important action happens inside the titular restaurant, due to the mushrooms only working inside its walls.
  • Dem Bones: The Seconds restaurant employs some walking, talking skeletons when reality starts to break apart.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Abusing the mushrooms seems to empower a demonic being who warps time. It's revealed, however, that it's actually another house spirit, vengeful after being displaced from its home.
  • Food Porn: All the dishes presented throughout the book are lovingly drawn with exquisite detail. This is a comic about restaurants, after all.
  • Happily Married: The result of Katie avoiding the breakup with Max, to her utter surprise.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Andrew and Max, both towards Kate. They trade places throughout the story being the hopeless one, and at one point both play the role at the same time.
  • Important Haircut: At the end, Hazel cutting her hair short symbolically represents her growth into a more social person.
    Katie: I literally cried.
  • Informed Deformity: The narration describes Lis as very gangly, but the art style and the fact that she's squatting on her haunches most of the time will cause the reader to question how she is different from any other character in this regard. In her few appearances standing at full height, she appears a bit shorter and less "gangly" than Hazel, whose appearance is described as attractive.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In the end, Katie is returned to the original timeline, reversing the entire story, even Katie preventing Hazel's burns. The one thing that remained constant through all the revisions, even this one, is that Katie still had that first conversation with Hazel about Lis, and they're still great friends in the present.
  • Interactive Narrator: The story has an unseen narrator who narrates Kate's life, though Kate argues with it throughout the story like it's a real person. It's implied to be Kate's conscience.
  • Living Shadow: The corruption that gains power with the constant rewriting of timelines.
  • Magic Mushroom: The strange red mushrooms that grow underneath Seconds. Eating one grants the ability to correct one's mistake in the past.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: As you can see on the right, the cover art for the book is simply a close up of Katie's face. Inverted in the Barnes and Noble exclusive cover, which is the basement floorplan of Seconds, and is actually quite detailed.
  • Missing Mom: Katie talks to her father on the phone, but her mom is never mentioned. It's implied she died from an unspecified illness.
  • Morality Pet: Katie's growing friendship with Hazel is what ultimately helps mentally bring her back to reality and to understand exactly why screwing around with space-time is a bad idea.
  • Motor Mouth: Yana, the ultra-social and personable waitress at Seconds who insists on keeping the shy, quiet Hazel on staff because "she makes me look good."
  • Mundane Fantastic: Nobody but Katie seems to be at all bothered or perplexed by the presence of walking, talking skeletons being under the employ of the restaurant. According to them, hiring these skeletons was all Katie's idea.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Katie experiences this a lot as more and more of the changes start getting out of control, especially during the timelines where she's married to Max.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Along with Katie abusing the mushroom's time space powers, it's revealed that in trying to fertilize the mushrooms with the dust from the cauldron, Katie wound up bringing the house spirit of Lucknow into Seconds, who slowly starts taking it over from Lis and becomes strong enough to warp time on its own.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Lis gives Katie the mushroom to fix time and space so that Hazel never burns her arms. This results in Katie finding more mushrooms and using them to manipulate time in her favor, to Lis's anger.
  • One-Word Title: Seconds, named after the restaurant in which most of the plot transpires.
  • The Place: The titular restaurant most of the book takes place in.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Max puts up with a lot throughout the story. When he finds out about Katie and Andrew's relationship in one reality, he lashes out at her with extreme prejudice.
  • Reset Button: Essentially what the mushrooms are. Inverted, they send Katie to another timeline where whatever action Katie didn't take is the one she did.
  • The Reveal:
    • The shadow monster growing in the walk-in is actually the house spirit of Lucknow, vengeful at Katie for abandoning the building.
    • Katie isn't really fixing her mistakes; she's taking the place of a Katie in an Alternate Timeline where she made a different decision.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Katie can recall how everything originally happened when she fixes a mistake. This is likely the result of not really using time travel to do so, but rather traveling to alternate timelines.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The red mushrooms give Katie this ability, which she starts to irresponsibly abuse and ends up sending everything to hell.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Red capped mushrooms, standard Bryan Lee O'Malley fare.
    • After waking up from Revision #6, Katie looks like she's outright cosplaying Radical Ed.
    • Katie watches all of "Baking Bad" in one sitting at night, and she makes a revision to have gone to bed earlier.
    • At one point Hazel is shown telling Katie about Spike's Heel–Face Turn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Hazel and Katie have a brief conversation about how bread makes you fat, with Hazel being as surprised as Scott Pilgrim was. Eagle-eyed readers can see a short message of "sorry..." written below the panel— O'Malley's humorous way of apologizing for referencing his previous work.
  • Skeletal Musician: As time is altered and the restaurant becomes situated in an infernal landscape some skeletons provide musical atmosphere.
    Katie: How is a skeleton playing a woodwind?
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Katie's dynamic with Andrew; one minute they're insulting each other's food and the next they're making out in the walk-in.
  • Spacetime Eater: A motif in the latter half of the book is that falling snow takes the appearance of consuming the fabric of the current reality.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Scott Pilgrim, with the emphasis on zany humor/characters, heavy amounts of characterization, an aesop based around personal responsibility and a very Animesque art style.
  • Straight Gay: Raymond, who shows no stereotypical gay characteristics; he's only known to be gay by mention of a boyfriend.
  • Super-Deformed: A number of preview panels have shown characters Art Shift into this.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: After a quiet breakup, Max moved on but Katie still has feelings for him.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The eventual fate of Seconds. After Katie has undone her actions and eaten the mushrooms enough times, the restaurant ends up in a dead world where the house spirit from Lucky's has gained enough fury and power to make sure everything remains that way.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Upon discovering just how well the mushrooms work, Katie abuses them to hell in the following ways:
    • One revision is used to rewrite Katie getting way too drunk during dinner and getting a little too personal with the other employees.
    • A second revision is used after coaxing Andrew into having sex with her, which she describes as having her cake and eating it and also not having it and not eating it too.
    • Another still is used to reverse her binge watching a whole TV series in one night and getting too little sleep.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Katie gets called out multiple times for her callous actions, especially when Max confronts her when he learns she was cheating on him with Andrew. These actions are usually done out of ignorance, since after undergoing revisions she doesn't know what is and isn't acceptable in the new timeline.